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Pre-show nerves: Mark Lamarr backstage on The Full Monty’s opening night
ERIE!— SHIRLEY VALENTINE
Seen at Musselburgh Town Hall. On tour in East Lothian until Saturday 2 March.
When romance turns to middle-aged spread and the only sense you get is off the wall, it’s time to bugger off to pastures new. Or at least it is for the eponymous heroine of Willy Russell’s evergreen solo show which has probably inspired more domestic upheaval than any other play of recent times. Indeed, Russell has become something of a patron saint of characters like Shirley — Rita the reluctant autodidact; the girls on the pull and on the verge in Stags and Hens; the unruly schoolkid of Our Day Out, searching fora brave new world in Wales - all working-class under- achievers about to break the mould.
Sure, all the plays are hopelessly romantic, tugging the heartstrings with a series of sentimental tricks, but that is precisely why they work. Even if some of the language and reference points in Shirley Valentine are dated, one can’t help getting wrapped up in Shirley’s plight, merely because she’s so darned likeable. Shirley is a throwback of the pre-permissive society, left behind bemused in a world not of her own making. Her kids become poets and hang out in bistros. The snooty cow at school’s become a hooker. Only Costas, Shirley’s unseen, silver-tongued Greek fling offers, it not a solution, then certainly a step in the right direction to a much-belated getting of wisdom and renewal as she reminds herself she’s alive.
Apart from anything else, it’s a gift of a part for an actress of a certain age, and if anything Isabella Jarrett is a tad too young. She charms us into Shirley’s world nevertheless, sustaining and delineating the emotional peaks and troughs with ease, like a solo Scouse The/ma and Louise who packs wit rather than pistols.
Director Robin Peoples seems to have patented a line in plays which, whilst retaining a certain integrity, are just a tad too cosy to do anything other than offer a mild diversion to day-to-day affairs. Maybe now’s the time for the Brunton to take a leaf out of Shirley’s book and really shake some ass, stretchmarks and all. (Neil Cooper)
THE FULL MONTY
Wilkie House, Edinburgh, monthly.
As the name implies, The Full Monty is not just the latest addition to the currently thriving capital comedy club scene. Rather, it looks to mix a full stand-up programme with club sounds and live music of the kickin’ kind, all set in the sort of joint where orderly behaviour is left at the door. Well, Wilkie House actually, but you get the drift. These are noble aspirations indeed, but of course no-one’s actually going to give a flying fig without a star name to tempt them inside.
Fifties throwback Mark Lamarr did the business on 25 January, or would’ve done if the audience’s large female contingent could’ve got his kit off. This - along with persistent plummy-voiced heckling from someone too twattish to concede defeat - might’ve put lesser men off their stroke, but the ex-Wordster fielded it with the ruthless, flick-knife wit for which he’s renowned.
Lamarr’s act proper was a hotchpotch of sex, drink and sickness, which took in bizarre coming-of-age rituals involving the oral pleasures some tribal leaders must face, booze- induced displays of machismo and old tinlegs himself, people’s favourite Douglas Bader. Slick as his hairdo, the man also has a nifty Fred Astaire routine up his trouser leg.
Warm-up acts were a mixed bag of locals given a break in front of a full house. En route to London’s Comedy Store, John Gillick held his own with a variation on News at Ten, while impressionist Gerry Grant was left with the unfortunate task of opening proceedings. Once the seats went back, the louisiana swing of the Deaf Heights Cajun Aces got the twirling underway. All in all you couldn’t have hoped for a better Burns Night, and with Charlie Chuck and Simon Day to come, the future sure looks full for Monty. And his mates. (Claire Prentice)
THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO Ul
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PARROT’S COMEDY CHURCH
Cafe Ros/in, Greenock, monthly. Hallelujah! After a break of two years, the Comedy Church returneth, based at a promising new venue in the heart of Greenock. Once again the proceedings are hosted by the town’s finest, Parrot.
‘John [Connolly, Cafe Roslin’s owner] asked me to do it because of the previous success of the club,’ he explains. ‘We decided to go monthly so that we could make it a big, spectacular show. One of our ideas is to have people like Jo Brand and Hattie Hayridge come up and do guest spots. I really want to do a kind of Viva Cabaret type of show — except live.‘
Although Parrot’s band Powderfinger will be resident musicians, he’ll be forsaking his usual vocal duties. As host on 11 February, he also limited his own comedy set to fifteen minutes, with a routine consisting mainly of a wry and very sarcastic look at Greenock’s local press.
The bill consisted of a quartet of stand-up comics. All hailed from England and all managed to win over the crowd. Best of the four (a difficult choice) was Andre Vincent, a jovial Londoner with a sharp wit and a nice line in self-effacing humour. Watch out for him.
The congenial Neil Britton also shined, taking his time with a well paced and amusing routine.
Next up were John Sealey and Alex Dandridge. Both normally work independently but combined forces for an astonishing double act, literally launching juggling clubs at one another with manic glee. Good stuff indeed.
A nice touch was having all four pool their collective talents in the second half of the show. The only low point was that after a couple of hours the crowd started to get restless, which culminated in Parrot struggling to be heard. However, these problems may be put down to teething trouble.
All in all, an auspicious if slightly haphazard start. if this framework can be maintained and expanded upon, then the club is set to run and run. (Scott Montgomery)
Tue 27 Feb Doors 9pm in the studio
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